How much does a drone light show cost?

Want to write “Marry Me” in the air in front of the person you’re proposing to? What about showering the sky with shapes of stars over a sporting event or show? Or maybe forming your company’s logo overhead for a corporate event? You’ve got an idea — and now you need to know how much that drone light show costs.

Hundreds of tiny, lit-up drones are capable of printing your idea in the sky. Companies that can make it happen for you range from big players to tiny drone startups. Big or small, drone light shows can add pizazz to your party. So how much does a drone light show cost?

Intel drone light show prices

Intel was the first — and biggest — providers of drone light shows. Alas, Intel has given up on its drone show arm, having since sold their system to a company called Nova Sky Stories.

But back in 2020, Intel shared its drone light show cost sheet with The Drone Girl. Prices started at just under six figures for a single show.

Here were the base prices for Intel’s drone light shows according to their official site as of 2020. Note that prices included on-site operations, animations, rehearsals, aviation permits, and a site survey:

Classic Premium
200-300 drone show 
8-minute experience 
300+ drone show (up to 5000 drones)
11 minutes experience
Complex/windy environments 
Smaller space requirements for operations 
200 drones:$149,000                 
300 drones: $99,000                             
300 drones: $199,000                     
500 drones:$299,000                          

Of course, these were just base costs, and didn’t necessarily include costs associate with the shipment of drones and Intel operations team travel. Plus, you’re still on the hook for expenses related to onsite infrastructure. That could entail fences to block off areas below where the drones are flying or seating. Intel required a minimum site space of 25m x 45m with secured fencing around the launch area, plus 340m x 300m of minimum airspace.

In addition, Intel said they typically recommended 2-3 months of lead time to plan their shows, which ultimately last about five minutes.

Intel’s drone light shows were primarily used for major, flashy events like concerts and the biggest conferences.

A screenshot from Intel’s website of drone show prices

Related read: Watch the entire stream of Thursday’s Girls Who Drone event featuring Intel and the drone light show team

Examples of real-life, Intel drone light shows

250 drones flew over the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada as part of the 2018 CES tech conference. A massive 1,218 drones flew over PyeongChang, South Korea for the Olympic Winter Games 2018 Opening Ceremony. And then there was what Intel claimed was the largest drone light show of all time (at the time). With that, 2,018 drones flew over Intel’s own campus to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary.

Prior to that, hundreds of Intel drones flew in an FAA-approved, Super Bowl Halftime Show featuring Lady Gaga. They served as nighttime entertainment at Coachella, and performed a recurring show during the 2016 holiday season at Walt Disney World. Adorably, drones flew in the shape of Baby Yoda for a Disney+ promotion.

Intel drones fly in the shape of an astronaut above the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to honor the Apollo 11 moon landing.

How much do other drone light show companies charge?

Intel was among the first of the major names to offer drone light shows. While its shows are no more, its contributions are enormous for setting the stage of drone light show companies we have today.

Here are some of the biggest drone light show companies in the world, and how much they charge you to put on a show:

How much a Sky Elements drone light show costs

Sky Elements Drones is based in Fort Worth, Texas, and is a leader for large-scale, U.S. drone light shows. Its portfolio includes the Los Angeles Dodgers drone light show, the Oakland Athletics Star Wars Light Show and the Grammy drone light show. Check out my saved Instagram stories for a behind-a-scenes look at the Oakland Athletics Star Wars Light Show.

Sky Elements promises a lower starting rate than what Intel quoted. Sky Elements show prices start at $15,000 for smaller shows. Though, don’t expect to get away with paying that little. Costs run far higher for larger, more intricate performances.

How much a SkyWorx drone light show costs

Based in Boise, Idaho, SkyWorx offers drone show packages that including anywhere from 100 to more than 1,000 drones designed for brand activations, music festivals, sporting events, corporate parties and holiday celebrations.

SkyWorx prices their shows based on number of drones used. Rates run between $200-$400 per drone and vary based on factors including total number of drones needed, availability, time of year and location.

How much a Verge Aero drone light show costs

Verge Aero was founded in 2016 and is based out of Austin, Texas. Among its top shows includes the premiere episode of “America’s Got Talent: Extreme,” President-Elect Biden’s victory celebration, and the Electric Daisy Carnival.

Verge Aero says its drone shows usually cost between $50,000 to $200,000 for a customized, outdoor drone light show. Its drones are capable of flying complex 3D animations and logos. The company requires a minimum of 100 drones for a simple show. Though, it has done shows with as few as 50 drones in more intimate settings.

For complex, 3D animations, Verge says it recommends a minimum number of 300 drones — thus a heftier price tag.

Other drone show companies to know

There are only a small handful of companies approved in the U.S. for drone light shows that travel. Among the top drone light show companies are:

  • Great Lakes Drone Company is based in Michigan. Its light show arm operates as Starlight Aerial Productions, and it’s one of the smaller U.S. drone light show companies. It uses a in-house system has been specially developed to direct assembly drone flight formations indoors and outdoor. It has put on shows for events including the Kentucky Derby Festival and the Burlington, Vermont Independence Day celebration.
  • Firefly is based in Detroit, Michigan. It puts on smaller-scale, simpler shows as opposed to multi-layered ones from competitors like Nova Sky Stories. What’s interesting about Firefly is they won’t just put on the show for you. If you want to do your own thing, they’ll even sell you what you need to put on a drone light show yourself.
  • Nova Sky Stories is one of the biggest players in the space today. That’s perhaps unsurprising since it spun out from the now-defunct Intel drone light show team. Based in Boulder, Colorado, it has offices

As far as companies that operate around the world, another huge competitor is Chinese drone maker Ehang. Ehang has its hands in all aspects of drones from passenger drones to consumer drones. Light shows were no exception, and Ehang competed with Intel regularly for breaking records on the largest drone light shows.

Disney has had success running its own in-house drone shows. That included a 2022 show at Disneyland Paris to celebrate its 30th anniversary, titled Disney D-light.  Disney also briefly used drones at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida during the 2016 holiday season to put on a nighttime spectacular. And in 2023, Disney marked the opening night of its new World of Frozen themed area park via a drone show.

Concept art promoting the Disneyland Paris Marvel drone show.

In Asia, there is SKYMAGIC, which is a Singapore-based drone light show company. SKYMAGIC is the team behind other major productions including London’s 2022 New Year’s Eve Show, a Pokemon drone show for Pikachu Weekend, and a public show to celebrate the Venice Biennale.

What’s the cost to launch my own drone light show?

(Photo of DIY light show drones by Drone Dojo)

Rather than pay someone else to do it, what’s the cost to launch your own drone show? You can typically purchase light show drones for about $2,000 per drone. Or if you’re handy, you could also cull together a DIY light show drone for about half that price (say, $1,000 per drone).

Keep in mind, most drone shows use at the absolute minimum 10 drones — but more realistically 50 to 100 drones on the small end. So multiply that $1,000 or $2,000 figure by at least 10 (or even 100).

Then don’t forget about light show software. Luckily, this drone light show training course from Drone Dojo trains you on Skybrush, which is a freemium drone light show software (meaning the cost to put on a small show might not cost you anything).

And of course, account for costs like drone insurance, permitting (depending on the venue) and staff. You’re likely not putting on a drone show solo.

Can drone light shows replace fireworks?

Many have suggested that drone light shows are a more environmentally friendly alternative to fireworks. But are drone shows cheaper than fireworks?

Small-town holiday fireworks displays typically cost about $2,000 to $7,000 for a basic show, according to Premier Pyrotechnics. What about the cost of large fireworks shows? Disney spends an estimated $33,000 per show for its fireworks spectacular at its Magic Kingdom theme park in Orlando, Fla.

Because the initial startup costs for drone shows are pretty high right now (after all, drone light show companies need to buy a kit of at least 50-100 drones to even get started), not really. Drone show companies are charging high prices now to pay off those drones. But it’s likely that as drone shows get cheaper, more entertainment providers will turn to drones over fireworks.

And many people argue that drones are more enjoyable than fireworks anyway. Sure, drone light shows don’t necessarily have the sonic impact of a fireworks display. However, experts say that because drones can be arranged in seemingly infinite 3D shapes and colors, they offer far more creative opportunities.

Some of the biggest entertainers, including Disney, are actually using drones in tandem with fireworks. For example, the spring 2023 Marvel drone show at the Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris used a mix of fireworks, projections and drones.

Are you surprised by these drone light show costs? What event would you like to see a drone light show at? Leave a comment below!

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